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Vikings fans to pay steep seat fees at new stadium

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Stadium agreement signed
Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen and executive director Ted Mondale last night signed a pair of documents finalizing the state's 30 year stadium deal with the Vikings.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

The Minnesota Vikings and the state's stadium authority signed a pair of binding agreements last night. Now comes the hard part: paying the mortgage.

After a decade of negotiations, threats and promises, the Vikings showed Minnesota the money Thursday night.

The team stacked up a subsidy from the NFL, a personal seat license plan and future naming rights to pay its $477 million dollar share of the new stadium.

And then Vikings owners kicked in another nine figures to seal the deal.

"The 100 million in equity is cash coming from the Wilfs, from the pockets of our owners," said Vikings Chief Financial Officer Steve Poppen.

• VIDEO: How seat licenses work

The financing details were finally made public as the team and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority signed a pair of agreements more than 500 pages long.

As Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton had demanded, the team committed more of its own cash to the project in the end. That's money on top of the other revenues the Vikings earmarked to pay their 49 percent share of the billion dollar stadium project.

But Vikings fans will have to put up, too. The state has agreed to sell $125 million in personal seat licenses on the team's behalf. The licenses will range in price from $500 to $10,000, although the average seat license will cost $2,500 each.

And three out of four fans will have to buy a license in the 65,000 seat stadium. The licenses are one-time fees, that give buyers ownership of the seat. They're also commodities that can be traded or sold.

The cost of seat licenses at the Vikings stadium is nowhere near the most expensive in the league. In the NFL's newest stadium in San Francisco, fans paid as much as $80,000 a seat. 

Gov. Mark Dayton conceded the deal wasn't all he was hoping for when he started talks with the team more than two years ago.

"I can safely assume that for most Minnesotans, this will look like a questionable deal, because the economics of professional sports are highly questionable all over this country," he said.

But Dayton said half a billion dollars in taxpayer money, and tens of millions more from fans, was ultimately worth it.

"We've been dealing with this from the very beginning, that if we want to keep the team in Minnesota, if we want all the jobs that this project is going to provide, if we want to have this as a magnet for further economic development in that blighted part of Minneapolis, that we had to make a deal, and we had to get the owners of the team to agree to a deal."

Vikings fans are of several minds about the plan.

"It's not a deal breaker," said Lonnie Van Klei of Stillwater, who's had seats in the Metrodome for 20 years. "It's kind of like paying taxes I guess. It's not that you want to do it, but you have to do it. I've just been part of the experience for too many years to let it go away, and sit at home and watch it."

But others are balking at the idea of paying twice, because even if you buy a seat license for hundreds of dollars, you still need to buy tickets. 

"It's the principal mainly, but its a little bit of the money as well," said Dixie Hilton at the Vikings-Browns game last month.  

It may be months before fans actually know what it will take to keep their seats. The Vikings have rented space for a sales center in Minneapolis and will be rolling out prices and payment plans by early next year.

The team itself will be signing off on nearly $400 million in loans in the coming weeks to pay a total of about $550 million, including financing and preparation costs.

Stadium authority chair Michele Kelm-Helgen says the state will borrow $498 million, an amount that includes the city of Minneapolis' share. After the financing closes in mid-November, the construction preparations will begin. 

And the Metrodome will soon be history. 

"The team will finish their season some time in January, hopefully after a playoff game or two, and we will have the building taken down beginning then in February," Kelm-Helgen said.

The new stadium is scheduled to open in July of 2016.